Audi hopes that the start of standalone GT2 competition this year will encourage customers to commit to its R8 racing model after a lower-than-expected uptake so far.
The Audi R8 LMS GT2 was revealed in the summer of 2019 and made its race debut later that year as the only GT2 in a field of GT3 cars taking part in a GT Sports Club race.
Despite being almost two years old, the car’s first standalone GT2 races against other brands came this month during the inaugural Fanatec GT2 European Series round at Monza.
Audi’s head of customer racing, Chris Reinke, suggested that those races ‘ticked a box’ and should “flick a few decisions” for people who were thinking of buying an R8 GT2.
Audi R8 LMS GT2s swept the Monza weekend, with Anders Fjordbach and Mark Patterson prevailing for High Class Racing in the first race before Bert Longin and Peter Guelinckx won for PK Carsport in race two.
“I’m quite honest with it,” Reinke told Sportscar365. “The car pulls attention wherever it goes. The car pulls excitement wherever it’s driven.
“On the sales side, I would be happy if there would be higher demand.
“But a lot of potential interested parties ask the question: ‘For me, as a track tool, it’s the ultimate dream. But if I want to proceed and enter to race it, where do I go? I’m on my own.’
“Therefore the message of this weekend [at Monza] is we position it as the ultimate track car, with the foreseeable future that it can be raced one day.
“We proved that it ticks a box with SRO. And I think that will flick a few decisions.
“If we then start, on the platform of the World Challenge and hopefully the States is next, then it will for sure increase the possibility to sell more, and also with the variety and the commitment of Lamborghini. The Porsche commitment has always been there.
“Together the addition of the exciting car of KTM, I think we have superb rivals out there. So I cannot see why this category will not eventually be also a success on the sales side.”
Reinke hopes that the organization of official GT2 races will make up for the category’s slow getaway from its official launch back in 2018.
Porsche was the first brand to announce a GT2-homologated car and held a single-make race on the support bill for the 2019 Total 24 Hours of Spa. It was soon followed by Audi with its spyder-based R8 racer to add to the brand’s GT3 and GT4 products.
After a planned McLaren entry failed to materialize in 2019, and with the coronavirus pandemic impacting race calendars and individual programs, the GT2 formula experienced a stunted global program last year that involved no standalone races.
However, the category has shown signs of growth in 2021 with the KTM X-Bow GT2 achieving its homologation for the coming season and the Lamborghini Huracan Super Trofeo Evo being made eligible through weight and restrictor adjustments.
When asked how many R8 LMS GT2s have been sold, Reinke said: “It could be and should be more. Which doesn’t question the commitment and our belief in this category at all.
“We expected a GT2 race already last year. By not fulfilling that promise, maybe some customers stayed conservative.
“Now with the delay caused by the pandemic decision – not by any strategic play – we fulfilled that promise.
“I believe that we have had a slower entry into the market than forecast, but eventually with such an exciting race product, you’ve got to be successful. It will happen.
“I think very soon we will have the discussion: how can we feed the demand of the market?”
Reiter: Track Day Use Dominates Demand
Hans Reiter, whose company Reiter Engineering developed the KTM X-Bow GT2, has said that the majority of GT2 cars have ended up being used for track days, although he hopes that more customers will find a competitive purpose now that racing has started.
A quartet of X-Bow GT2s raced at Monza, including three for True Racing with Reiter Engineering and one for Swiss organization Sportec.
The X-Bow GT2 is an SRO-homologated variant of the KTM X-Bow GTX race car that has recently appeared on grids in the 24H Series, the NLS and other national competitions.
“No matter what brand, most cars go into track days,” said Reiter. “Unless it’s GTE cars which you only buy for racing. If you look at the Porsche GT2, 99 percent went to track days.
“With track days you don’t make any money – you only see them after three years. The business case to a racing manufacturer is racing. Not even selling cars, it’s spare parts.”
Reiter echoed Reinke’s belief that having cars racing in an organized competition will provide a boost to the GT2 market.
“It started wrong,” he said. “But now we have 12 [cars at Monza] and I’m pretty sure that we will have 14 or 15 in Hockenheim. We had people calling [during the Monza races]: can I have a seat?
“The feedback has been really good. We are really happy. The approach was to do something that anybody can drive and is easy to handle.”